Christmas is for Kaiju (and everyone else who wants to celebrate)

(Click to Santa-size it.)

Merry Christmas (or Happy Friday, as the case may be) to you all. Enjoy the day!

Nostalgia Chow: More Childhood TV Moments

The Hercules and Willie Whistle clips the other day sent my brain reeling into all sorts of televisual memories, and thanks to YouTube, I can foist them onto the rest of you, maybe even re-awaken them in those of you who experienced this stuff in parallel.

First of all, from the Boston's late, great WLVI, Channel 56, here's the intro to a Saturday afternoon institution, The Creature Double Feature:



I never watched this as often as I would have liked, since my parents seemed to think my Saturdays were better spent playing sports I wasn't good at in organized leagues with kids I spent most of the rest of the week trying to avoid (on more than one occasion, I've asked my mom whose side was she on, anyway), but this intro (especially the song) is burned into my brain for all time.

A little more WLVI goodness here, some PSAs (including the old school Boston Museum of Science ad that ran for years and years) and a morning programming promo (for Bozo the Clown and Battle of the Planets) narrated by Dale Dorman, a disc jockey who was pretty much the voice of Channel 56 for years:



And now here's the late, great Eddie Driskoll, all-around on-air personality for WLBZ, Channel 2 in Bangor, Maine, to bring things a little closer to home (and my neighborhood, in fact, as Eddie lived just a few streets away), with a promo for his afternoon movie program, The Great Money Movie:



(They used to air a lot of those movies made up of stitched together TV episodes like Spider-Man and Battlestar Galactica on GMM, which I'd always tune in for. The only better week of programming was their annual Planet of the Apes week).

Here's Eddie doing an ad for local pizza chain Napoli's:



Apparently this Godfather was from downeast Sicily (even growing up in Maine, it still makes me laugh to hear anyone say "Bangaw" or "Bah Hahbah."

Men of steel, chins of hugeness

Seriously, I think the Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and company were at least a little influenced by the old Mighty Hercules cartoons when designing the look of their Superman series, don't you?


Not making any sort of accusations here... I'm sure it's completely intentional act of homage, but still, not the sort of thing I've ever heard referenced anywhere, and I think it's kind of cool.

Iron in his thighs? Um, Hercules, you might want to have that checked. Could lead to a clot.

Hey, lookee here, it's the Mighty Hercules in "Medusa's Sceptre"



I always loved these as a kid. I'm not quite sure where I saw them - I wanna say The Willie Whistle Show on Boston's WSBK, TV38, but I'm not 100% certain - but I think they may have made about a hundred million of these since it seems like they were on a whole lot. Limited animation - and plot - aside, I always liked the character designs (there's a whole lot of this Hercules in the Timm/Dini Superman, isn't there?) and how you got an entire adventure in just 5 minutes. I never really understood why a guy as buff as ol' Herc here needed a ring to get his powers (though I remember running around with a red garbage bag tie on my finger pretending it was the ring of Hercules), nor why he ran off crazylegs-style at the end of every single cartoon, but hey, it was good stuff, and it holds up surprisingly well, annoying centaur sidekick aside.

And did you see in the credits that the theme song was performed by Johnny Nash?




And hey, speaking of The Willie Whistle Show, here's a clip:



Watching that now, I can only think DEAR SWEET LORD IN HEAVEN THAT SHOW WAS TERRIFYING! How I watched that every day without becoming an official, card-carrying coulrophobe I'll never know.

Pretty Sketchy: Brainiac 5 by Andrew Charipar

More great artwork from Andrew Charipar, this time up it's late LSH "Threeboot" era Brainiac 5 in the costume revamp designed by Francis Manapul (loved how Manapul worked in the animated Superman/JLU Brainiac design element with the insignia). You may recall that my son and I have several of Drew's sketches in our collections now. I just can't get enough of this guy's work!

And then there was the time Atari ruined everyone's Christmas.

I can't imagine a gift leading to more Christmas morning (or Hanukkah evening) tears than the E.T. game for the Atari 2600.



It apparently took Atari thousands of years to win back the holiday goodwill of humankind.



But honestly, decent as the ports of Ms. Pac-Man and Jungle Hunt were, there was no making up for that E.T. game.

For Your (Re)Consideration: Superman 3

(Holy Crap, this is Post #1000! Thanks for putting up with this malarkey for so long, folks.)

So here's the thing about Superman 3: it's not as bad as you think you remember. It doesn't hold a candle to the first two, but for its misfires - and there are plenty - there are enough good moments that make it better than its reputation would have you believe.

Most folks' biggest complaint about the film is that director Richard Lester and writers David and Leslie Newman place too much emphasis on big, campy gags that waste valuable screen time and stall the story. And yeah, that's pretty accurate. I have no problem with writers injecting humorous moments into movies like this, but a lot of the gags here are terribly forced, awkwardly derailing the pace of the movie. Worse still, they often don't even lead up to a satisfying pay-off.

Take the scene during the credits sequence: a small accident begets another, slightly larger one, and so on down the line, building toward a Rube Goldberg-esque (or at least Tom & Jerry-ish) sequence of happenings that you think is going to lead to A Job For Superman. And then... Superman rescues a guy from his car. Sure, it's great Superman could rescue that guy, but honestly, a firefighter, police officer, or even random passer-by with something that could break a window could've done the job. And some other guy gets a pie in the face. The end. Promising set-up, lackluster finish.

(Not that every joke falls flat. The running gag where Lana and Clark always have two conversations running at once with Clark inevitably getting confused was cute, thanks in large part to having two charming actors like Annette O'Toole and Christopher Reeve to sell it.)

Where Superman 3 soars (sorry), though, is the fact that it contains some of the most recognizably Supermanly moments of the entire series. The first of these comes fairly early, as Superman battles a chemical plant fire. The firefighters' water tanks burst, and the whole place is about to erupt in a giant superheated chemical death cloud. So what does Superman do? He finds a nearby lake, freezes it with his superbreath, flies it to the plant and then drops it over the blaze, the heat melting the ice into rain before it can hit the ground. That's about as Superman as Superman gets right there.

And of course, there's the movie's bread and butter, the "Superman goes bad" sequence. While prompted by the villains' artificial Kryptonite (not one scientist in Robert Vaughn's employ thought to question the whole tar thing?), it's a classic Red Kryptonite story brought to life, from Superman going bad right on up to the (literal) split personality showdown between Superman and Clark in the junkyard. It seems like it should be cheesy, but again, the strength of Reeve's performance saves this, too. The darker Superman isn't cartoonishly, cacklingly evil, he's just plain mean, which is more entertaining and sinister at the same time. And as the Clark half of the battle, Reeve isn't just the good Superman in Clark clothing, he's actually retaining the Clark persona, awkwardly standing up to a bully (and outright losing his shit when it becomes clear that's the only way to deal with the situation. Mad Clark is mad.).



The climactic battle with the super computer isn't all that bad, either. A little hokey, what with Robert Vaughn fighting Superman like he was in a video game (complete with sound effects from the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man), but it does the job well enough as a big end fight scene. You've got Superman fighting off missiles, the giant computer that can figure out any opponent's weakness, a little actual Kryptonite, and the villains' plan going beyond their control. Nothing new, but adequate. Apparently producer Ilya Salkind originally wanted Brainiac to be the villain for this movie, and at least a little of that seems to carry over into the finale, as the computer becomes self-aware and fights to preserve its own existence. So there's that.

Overall, Superman 3 has its problems - and honestly, very few of them have anything to do with Richard Pryor, who does the best with what they gave him (which wasn't always much) - but there's enough goodness in there, especially if you like a little Silver Age in your Superman, to justify giving it another shot. It's really not as bad as people say, and it's a lot easier to take than Superman 4: The Quest for Peace, or even - no, or especially - Superman Returns. If Superman Returns had a face, I would punch it. I would punch Superman Returns in the face. Superman 3, on the other hand, I'd buy a beer. Probably because Mean Superman would make me, but still.

So this one time Batman wore Plastic Man as a boot and kicked a guy so hard...

that it Kirby Krackled* all over the damn place.



Seriously, you guys, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is probably the best cartoon on TV right now**, and one of the best Batman anythings ever besides. If you're so hung up on what Batman "should" be that you can't enjoy this show even a little, you're beyond my ability to help ya, friend.





*Not to be confused with this Kirby Krackle, though they're decent, too.

** Phineas & Ferb is very, very close second, in case you were wondering.

Forever late to the (holiday) party...

I know we're three nights in now, but Happy Hanukkah to everyone who celebrates it.

So where's this guy's Christmas special?

I was at Target a few minutes ago and saw an elderly gentleman - 90 if he was a day - walk in to the music aisle of the electronics section, step up to a keyboard, and proceed to go to town on a number of ragtime-style Christmas songs completely from memory. This man was absolutely beaming the whole time, and when he finished, the shoppers who had stopped to listen burst into applause.

This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen in my life.

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Rhode Island Slush Storm Edition

Winter here is messy. It was less so in Maine. I'm no fan of snow, but it's a lot easier to clean up the yard after snow than the wet slop we get here.

But I digress. As always, these are short reactions to recently read (though not always recently published) comics. And away we go.


Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight by Ralph Cosentino - Not actually comics, but a picture book outlining the "Who He Is and How He Came to Be" of Batman for the kids. Cosentino's illustrations are gorgeous, very Golden Agey by way of someone like, say, Seth (some pages are recreations of panels from Batman's comic book origin), and he gets points for not sidestepping the whole "MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!!!" thing, handling it in a straightforward, but tasteful manner. Nothing new or earth-shattering going on here, but if you enjoy Batman and aren't opposed to things that are fun, you'll dig it and will want to buy a copy for the kid(s) in your life, and probably one for yourself, too.



Batman/Doc Savage Special - Lots of the online folk seemed to have a problem with this, mostly because the story doesn't have a whole lot of "there" there ("Batman's innocent." "Why, Doc?" "Just 'cuz."), but it got me excited for this whole First Wave thing that it's kicking off, so I'm willing to overlook what should otherwise be a not-so-shortcoming. Well, that and the "Batman with guns" thing. I don't care if he did use guns for 30 seconds back in 1938, I never enjoy the idea of a pistol-packin' Batman. But anyway, I mostly enjoyed Brian Azzarello's characterization, the Phil Noto artwork was, as always, a thing of beauty to behold, and the preview sketches and pitch material in the back was pretty interesting, especially the idea that this is some sort of combo retro-modern Earth with cell phones and airships (there are always airships in these things, aren't there?). I think they should've called this something like "First Wave Prelude Starring Batman and Doc Savage," maybe that would've lessened people's expectations a bit, but I want to see what comes next, so mission accomplished, DC.



Black Widow and the Marvel Girls #1 - Like Jeff Parker and Fred Van Lente before him, Paul Tobin has made the Marvel Adventures line into his own little fiefdom of good storytelling, comic books true to the spirit of the characters without being weighed down by whatever major events are going over in the so-called "real" books. And while the premise of this story may raise your eyebrows at first (Black Widow teams up with the Enchantress? In flashback? Wha huh?), the result is entertaining and surprising. Any time writers can work both espionage and Asgardian magic into the same story seamlessly, you know they're on to something. I suspect that if you enjoyed Tobin's earlier Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil mini-series (and you did enjoy that, right?), you'll find a lot to like here, too.



Fantastic Four #573 - I kind of wished Jonathan Hickman had just come right out and titled this "The One Where I Tie Up the Loose Ends from Millar's Run," because that's all this was. And I didn't read Millar's run, so I had no particular attachment to the story or the characters. And even then I thought it was wrapped up too quickly and in slapdash fashion. Uninspired fill-in art, too. And nothing like the cover ever occurs in the book, which is too bad, because that story looks fun. In short, this was about as bad as the the past few issues have been good. I'm hoping he bounces back next issue.

Getting Hooked Part 8: Accidentally Alternative

The book: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8

Bought from: Moonshadow Comics, Portland, Maine

Way, way back in the halcyon days of 1986, I would occasionally convince my parents to let me mail order my comic books from Moonshadow Comics in Portland, which was certainly the first direct market comic book store I had ever encountered, maybe even the first one in all of Maine (the arrival of Bangor's first comic shop, Wizard of Comics, was still a few years off at this point). I eventually stopped using their service, though, when they made what I considered at the time to be an egregious error, and swapped out some crucial books for stuff I didn't order. Sure, I got my issues of Captain America, Marvel Age, and some of the other books I considered essential, but the rest were odd. I should have been reading the first issue of the Howard the Duck movie adaptation, but instead I had this dumb book a lady with clocks on her boobs, a grey, Peter Porker-looking barbarian, and four ninja turtles.

I was appalled. I had never heard of this book, it didn't have superheroes, and worst of all, it was printed in black and white! I mean, honestly. I wanted to return the books and complain, but my parents couldn't be bothered. Funny books were funny books, they said. Defeated, I thumbed through the weird, new comics, tossed them in the stack with the rest of my collection, and promptly forgot about all of them.

About a year and half later, I'm watching TV after school one day, and these guys come on the screen:

And from that first episode, I was hooked. They sure looked different than the ones in that almost-forgotten comic, though. I dug it out to be sure, and while these guys were kid-friendlier than the originals, everything matched up, so I actually read the comic this time, and though it was a very different experience than what I was seeing on TV, it was still pretty enjoyable, even without any color.

A few months after that, Wizard of Comics opened, and they had a whole table of Turtles books out which I descended upon like the cartoon versions on a pizza. Stuff like in-story references to other comics and creator credits in the anthology book Turtle Soup made me curious about other independent books, and now that we had a comic book store in town, I could actually find some of them.

So while purists may have resented the TMNT cartoon - and subsequent merchandising explosion - and thought it was a sell-out move by Eastman and Laird, it sent me off to discover both the original comic book and the world of independent comics as a whole. Come to think of it, it sent me back to those discoveries. Moonshadow Comics tried to get me started earlier, but I wasn't ready yet.

For a while, I was mad that they sent me the wrong books. But in the time since, I've been mad that I never got the chance to thank them for that.

Hot Button Comics Internet Discussion Issue of the Moment!

Ever since last week, the blogs and message boards have been ablaze with controversy about some Green Lantern/Blackest Night booby picture that some retailer posted which was then spread to the world at large by an internet comics gossip columnist of some infamy or renown, depending on your opinion, I suppose (though the idea that an interner comics gossip columnist can achieve a degree of either status always struck me as rather silly). Having been busy throughout the holiday weekend, I never gave it much thought, but seeing as it is still a hot button issue, I do feel compelled to make my contribution to the topic of Blackest Night-related booby photos:



I mean, I'm certainly willing to give the people what they want, though I'm still not sure I completely understand all the drama.



(Yes, that was a long way to go for a very dumb joke. No, I am not sorry.)

Holidaze

As you can probably tell from the header graphic and sidebar (provided you come directly to the blog rather than just reading this through an RSS reader, anyway), I'm getting ready for the holiday season, and yeah, that's gonna creep into the blog content for the next month. We here at Trusty Plinko Stick World HQ won't be going overboard, mind you, but it's our favorite time of year (minus the cold and, when applicable, the snow), so it's hard not to share the enthusiasm.

Even Batman and Robin get into the spirit of the season:



as does the Doctor (who isn't even of this Earth, remember!):



so how can we possibly hope to avoid it?

Pretty Sketchy: Boy Wonder

Yes, it's Robin his own self, as rendered by Vincent Kukua (who also did this awesome Hellcat for me) for my son, Liam, who months later still talks about how much he loves having this on his wall beside Batman and Wildcat.